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National Solo Round Up 2019

by Will Loy 5 Dec 2019 16:23 GMT
Charlie Cumbley wins the Solo Nationals at the WPNSA © Will Loy

It has been another eventful and entertaining year for the National Solo Class, below I have cherry-picked some of the highlights.

February

With 60 entries for the Noble Marine Winter Championship which also served as the first event of the North Sails Super Series was the largest for a number of years. This possibly reflected the fair weather mentality of the average sailor and the confidence in online weather prediction platforms rather than an a sudden upsurge of interest in the class. The race team at Chew Valley Lake was set for a busy day. The Spring like temperature, tempered by a light south east breeze of 10mph would provided a good test for the competitors that did well and a bloody awful examination for those who would do badly. This forecast must have also illuminated the face of the NSCA 'on water' judge Steve Watson who is always happy to dish out friendly but authoritative advice to anyone who is a little too unbalanced a little too often.

Charlie Cumbley laid down the gauntlet for 2019 with the race 1 win from fellow North Sails team member Tom Gillard and first *Corinthian sailor Tim Lewis in third. Race 2 and with a late swing to the left, Gillard and Graham Cranford Smith found themselves unable to cross the line at the pin end while Cumbley sailed off to his second win with HD Sails Andy Davis second from Corinthian sailor Nigel Thomas third.

Race 3 and with the majority of the fleet opting for the committee end, Mark Maskell took the * "Balls of Steel" award for almost carrying off a pin end start and port tacking the fleet. Gillard was on his own personal mission to prove to his pay master that he still possessed the necessary skill set to work at North Sails and led from start to finish with Cumbley breaking through the talented Brenda Hoult's defence to claim second at the gun.

So, overall it was Cumbley (Winder 2/Selden D+/North P2) with the victory from Gillard and Davis with Thomas the first Corinthian sailor in 4th. This was Cumbley's 7th Winter title (Jim Hunt has won it 8 times) and the fourth on the bounce, massively impressive and testimony to the class racing that he is still hungry to compete in the Solo.

Other equally notable individual race performances from my own perspective included Irishman Shane McCarthy's 26th in race 3. With a 6-7 as counters I guess he went for the Hollywood pass and hit the wrong corner of Chew Valley Lake while our class Insurer, Noble Marine's own Phil Kilburn who suffered a 49th in race 2 was maybe more interested in observing the rather congested mark roundings and subsequent insurance claims for future reference. I must also mention the inclusion of special guest Nick Fisher who had borrowed Errol Edward's Solo for the event and finished 39th overall. Sailwave showed his club as Staddon Heights Golf Club, not sure if they are RYA affiliated but he has clearly spent too much time on the golf course and not enough on the water.

There is a Balls of Steel award for a tactic or manoeuvre that succeeds or fails with the latter being optimal for my reports. This will be used widely in 2020.

With some professional sailors showing us how it's done, a Corinthian award for first non pro sailor could be introduced for 2020.

March

The RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show was another Solo fest with no fewer than five examples on show. On the NSCA stand Winder and P&B provided two superb examples of the FRP hull while Mike Barnes's 1988 Becket built wooden Solo Top Drive, which had been recently refurbished by the highly skilled Kevin Gosling reminded many of an era where wood was king. Members chewed over the fat, the latest operation they had undergone and the season ahead.

On to the second major of the year and the Spring Championship at Draycote Water, traditionally a stronghold of Solo sailing, though there were many left with covers on as 46 competitors launched into a building 15mph from the east. This was to be my first big event competing following a back operation and it felt great to be on the water and racing the wooden Solo that had undergone a major refurbishment and was centre of attention at the previous weeks Dinghy Show Exhibition... until half way up the first beat when I was T-boned by a port tacker who either had sight and hearing issues or a maybe just plain jealousy.

At the pointy end of the fleet it was North Sails Cumbley, HD Sails Davis and P&Bs Oliver Davenport who held these positions for both races 1 and 2 with Corinthians Nigel Davies and Ian Walters collecting 4th's. Race 3 and Cumbley would complete the clean sweep with Hyde Sails Richard Lovering finally getting into the groove to finish 2nd from Davis.

This was Cumbley's seventh Spring Championship (Winder 2/Selden D+/North P2) with Davis 2nd, Oliver Davenport 3rd and the talented Ewan Birkin Walls 4th and first Corinthian.

On a personal level I really enjoyed the racing and mixing it with the stars for one beat of race 2 rekindled long distant memories of when I was 80 kgs, injury free and full of the self belief in my God given talent. The subsequent reach reminded me that I am no longer 80kgs, injury free of talented.

April

The Western Area Championship which took place at Tata Sailing Club, while lacking in actual numbers given the forecast of strong winds was rich in talent. Some of the competitors exhibited some great capsize recovery skills. Shane McCarthy in the Winder/HD took two bullets and a 2nd on day 1 with Chris Brown recording a 2-2-1 in the Winder/North to keep the pressure on the Irishman overnight.

Sunday dawned with a force 7 blasting over the picturesque lake, the Steelworks backdrop providing a Judgement Day feel and a points tally which would result in a bum clenching finale to the Championship. Brown stepped up to the plate from the gun and powered to a race 4 bullet which meant he was equal with McCarthy going into the final race. Andy Fox had finished 3rd in this race and was observed using his hiking straps which gives you an idea of how windy it was and is also a glowing indictment of the adhesion properties of epoxy glue. McCarthy took the lead and seemed set to win but Brown (Winder 2/ Selden D+/North F2), showing the same kind of resilience and determination that he exhibits to keep his wallet in his pocket was not to be denied, forcing the Irishman into turns at the last top mark, taking the bullet and the title, his fourth Welsh Championship (the first was in 2004).

Other notable performances included Tony Thresher's 4th place in race 4, the Solo builder was racing 4927, an all wood white whale built for Mike Hobin in 2009 which has all of the good Thresher hull development tweaks attained through 3 decades of experimentation.

Bob Taylor would have won the Balls of Steel Award, he only weighs about 7 stone wet through and I can only assume his spectacles were steamed up and he had no idea how windy it was. I would also suggest he would have been nominated for a 'Scream Face' award which we may introduce in 2020 for most frightened expression at the gybe mark.

May

The Dutch Spring Cup was once again held at Medemblik in conditions which could be deemed as penal, no surprise to me as it has been the same for the last 3 years. 13 UK sailors joined the 23 Dutch compatriots for 3 days of brutality on the water, fortunately the apres sail was as always is, suitably Dutch and alcoholic which eased the pain.

North Sails Tom Lonsdale took a first race bullet but was never seen again at the pointy end, the beer had clearly disagreed with him. Ireland's Shane McCarthy took the win in race 2 and added a 3-4-5 to complete his series and finish 3rd overall. Guy Mayger clearly relished the conditions, akin to the waters of Felpham in a blow and reeled off bullets in races 4-5 to finish 2nd overall and first Corinthian while Tom Gillard (Winder 2/Selden D+North P2) who had started off with a tardy 7-9 (must have been on the lash with Lonsdale) bounced back with 2-1-2-2 to win the title of Dutch Spring Champion. I understand the Nation's Cup is being held here in 2020 but later in the year when the temperature should be more hospitable.

Medemblik is a great venue and the Dutch put on a great show so book June 18-21 into your 2020 calendar now.

The P&B/Salcombe Gin Vintage Championship attracted 20 classic Solos to Leigh on Sea, traditionally a venue that has it's own policy on Solo ownership. if it is under the 4000 sail number then you can come in. This is a fantastic initiative which allows class racing at an affordable level and still allows the owner to pimp his pride and joy with the latest rig. The club adopted the NSCA twenty year rolling criteria which allowed post 4000 sail numbers and visitor Dave Goudie (Gosling/Proctor C/HD Sail) from Grafham Water showed the way around in his beautiful Gosling 4040.

Mike Iszatt and Jonny Wells completed the podium in their Solos 3875 and 3903. There is a growing fleet of vintage Solos now racing at Dittisham Sailing Club, led by none other than Jon Clarke of Edge Sails fame. He raced this Lovett built Solo back in the early 1980s and, though the finish to the decks is on the weathered side, Jon still has success on the water, he just has to try harder. I would love to see a series for older wooden and GRP Solos, running along the Super Series but with a separate start. This would require a minimum number so please do let the Committee know if you are interested.

The HD Sails Scottish Championship was held at Largo Bay Sailing Club and while the entry level was lower than normal, largely due to a dreary forecast, the racing was, as always when the English take on the Scots, fierce. Andy Davis (Winder 2/Superspar M2/HD Sail) who had generously sponsored the event had also provided a coaching day beforehand and won the event but my 'Balls of Steel' award would have gone to Ian Hopwood for his pin end crash tack and lead into the top mark in race 4. Never one to hold back, he lets the world know when he gets it right and let out a scream of delight. He would also have won the Scream Face award when he realised he was OCS.

Keith Milroy (Corinthian) has been steadily improving and was on the podium with Stuart Gibson securing third with a last race bullet. Class Vice President Patrick Burns and Kevan Gibb continue to build a strong fleet north of Hadrian's Wall and with the National Championship booked in for North Berwick in 2020, I anticipate further successes for the Scots, especially if Robbie Wilson makes an appearance.

The Salcombe Whitsun Regatta, sponsored by Coast and Country Cottages and Barney Greenhill raced at one of the most iconic sailing venues in the UK was contested by 26 hardy and liberally talented sailors with Tim Law Winder 2/D+/North P2 proving his prowess of these tricky waters. Mike Hicks and David Greening completed a star studded top three. If you have never sailed here let me warn you to bring a rucksack full of patience and optimism, a map of the harbour and a packet of Nurofen will also be useful. Tidal influences, obstructions, eddies, shallows, swimmers, dolphins and a home fleet of experts, what's not to like. If you can beat these boys and girls then you can say you have mastered the dark art of racing the National Solo.

June

The Nigel Pusinelli Trophy, held at WPNSA, traditionally the Pre-Championship warm up was well supported, primarily because it is just a great venue and secondly as it was to be the venue for the National Championship later in the season. 38 entries joined a healthy fleet of Europes for two days of compelling and exhausting racing at the home of UK sailing. Tom Gillard in the Winder 2/D+/North P2 and weighing in at 70kgs gave a heavy weather display akin to the great Dick Batt at Pevensey Bay in 85 to take the victory. His 1-1-1-1-2-2 was convincing but the day two display from P&B's Oliver Davenport and a scoreline of 3-2-2-4-1-1 gave him and others some crumbs of hope for the majors ahead.

Davenport was able to use his height advantage in the 20+ knots and matched with the D+/P&B medium cut, looked a formidable force. Shane McCarthy (IRE) Winder 2/D+/HD Sails was third overall and first Corinthian, a truly miraculous recovery from a race 1 OCS. Shane has shown glimpses of real talent and his time in the Solo is now reaping dividends with consistent finishes at the front of the fleet.

There were a number of potential Scream Face awards, such was the ferocity of some of the gusts at the gybe mark and there was probably a similar number of competitors who should be given Balls of Steel awards for attempting the gybe. It is though Ray Collins who wins the Ballsy award for completing all six races at the tender age of 70+, testament to his skill and courage. Whoever his Yoga teacher is, I want their number.

July

80 Solo sailors from the UK, Nederland, Belgium, Portugal and the USA descended on Carnac, France for the Magic Marine Nation's Cup and although the winds were generally light to moderate, the temperatures were much more conducive than Medemblik in May. Corinthian, James Boyce in a ten year old Winder 1/D+/North P2 took home the title to Papercourt Sailing Club after a four day battle with reigning Champion Charlie Cumbley in the Winder 2/D+/North P2 who bagged three races.

Ultimately it was the weight advantage that played into the hands of the 80kg sailor, a good 10kgs lighter than the North Sails jockey and this enabled him to collect a series of consistent results in the lighter conditions. This was no two horse race though and race wins went to Andy Tunnicliffe in the Ovington/D+/Impact Marine, Hayling Island's Alex Butler, Salcombe's Tim Law and surprise edition John Reeke who nailed the final race of the event in a Solo with a red hull. That must be a first for the class in at least 15 years.

There were stand out performances from Joao Rodrigues POR eighth overall, Butler as first Junior and fourth overall and Reeke in ninth overall. Mention also to Richard Lovering Ovington/D+/Hyde for showing some impressive resilience to finish fifth overall despite him overdoing the Ice-cream parlour every evening.

There were no Scream Face awards, 30 degrees and a gentle Mediterranean breeze was nothing to be scared about but the Balls of Steel award would IMO go to Dutch media man Marc Dieben. He had placed two Go Pros on Cumbley's Solo before race 6, hoping for some fantastic footage of the North Sails sailor as he showed us how it should be done. Unfortunately Cumbley had found himself on the wrong side of a first beat shift and the voice recording was a little fruity for public circulation. He was also filmed testing the deck strength of his FRP constructed Solo with his fist, of course it passed with flying colours. This would be one of his discards but respect to Marc for getting those cameras off the boat in one piece.

In all, a fantastic event and everyone is looking forward to returning to Carnac in the near future.

August

The Magic Marine National Championship which this year took place over four days would be a true test of heavy air sailing for the 70 sailors, Charlie Cumbley pretty much dominated the event, revelling in the fresh conditions. WPNSA put on a great Championship despite us losing some races due to the area being battered by 60 knot gusts, there were though no complaints from the competitors.

Day 1 saw the 'lightest' conditions, 10-15 knots and it was 2 bullets each for Cumbley and Davis, it was especially nice to see the Superspar M2 rig Taxi was using, match the performance of the Selden D+. The Solo class has always been about personal choice and this mast option is healthy for competitors and suppliers. Hyde Sails Richard Lovering in the Ovington hull got into the groove with a set of consistent results to leave him in third position overnight while Hayling Island's seventeen year old Finley Dickinson in the Boatyard at Beer Solo showed amazing talent to produce two top three results, tainted only by the BFD he received in race 3 to hold fourth overall.

Day 2 turned into a one race day as the breeze built from fresh to Ffresh and Cumbley dominated the race from start to finish. The sea state was as problematic as the gusts as they bounced back off the harbour wall and there were some big casualties on the final run to the gun, Davis, McCarthy and a luckless Tim Law who's tiller extension parted company with its UJ at the worst possible time. Davenport had crossed the line in second, the athleticism of the P&B sailor giving him some serious speed on all points of the course. Unfortunately he had been slightly too quick off the start line, BFD, ouch. Jack Hopkins in the JP/P&B Hull/P&B sail and Laser Radial National Champion Jon Emmett therefore completed the race 5 podium with Lovering fourth and lightweight Dickinson fifth and impressing with his silky sailing style in conditions that had kept bigger guys onshore. His display clearly advertising the effectiveness of the Solo rig across the widest range of conditions with the widest range of helm weights.

There would have been a large number of Scream Face awards, that final run and gusts that ripped through the race area, wiping out many will be etched into memory banks for years to come.

Race Officer Paul Kimmens would have won my Balls of Steel award for making the call to firstly get us out on the water and then picking the precise moment to shorten and finish us, just as the worst of the weather bore down on Weymouth.

Day 3 was blown off and the early canning allowed the sailors time to repair, reflect and relax ahead of the final day and conclusion to the Championship.

Day 4 and the fleet were back in full hike mode as the breeze held at 18 knots. Race 6 and Cumbley and Davenport continued were they left off but this time Davenport was a clean starter and held a healthy second from Dickinson, McCarthy and Hopkins. The breeze was a fresh 20 knots with a confused wave pattern and the competitors were asked for one more herculean effort. There would be no race eight and therefore only one discard was in play, consistency would be vital for those who had already scored highly.

Cumbley once again controlled the first beat with Davenport nipping at his heels to keep him honest. There were heroics throughout the fleet but special mentions to Ellie Cumpsty and Justine Davenport, our two female competitors who finish both races, somehow, Balls of Steel awards don't seem quite right but they were truly brave.

The final run was filled with drama, Cumbley capsizing and allowing Davenport through for a seemingly fitting win given his efforts but then he dumped it in at the final gybe and Cumbley had recovered to take the race victory to put the icing on his cake. Guy Mayger finally arrived at the party to take third from Hopkins, Mark Lee and Dickinson.

So Overall the top five would be Charlie Cumbley winning five of the seven races from youngster and Junior and Corinthian, Finley Dickinson, Jack Hopkins, Andy Davis and Jon Emmett. A Championship that has set a higher bar for future events, the race team were exemplary and all competitors need applauding for their skill and stamina in this compressed format. Next year we return to North Berwick for a week long Championship.

The top six equipment guide shows the quality of the different designs available, the versatility of the rigs in all conditions and the variety of helm weights and ages; all bases covered then.

Charlie Cumbley90kgNorth P2 sailWinder Mk 2 hullSelden D+ mast
Finley Dickinson72kgNorth P2 sailBoatyard at Beer hullSelden D+ mast
Jack Hopkins80kgP&B sailJP-P&B hullSelden D+ mast
Andy Davis80kgHD Maxx sailWinder Mk 2Superspar M2 mast
Jon Emmett72kgHD Maxx sailWinder Mk 2Selden D+ mast
Richard Lovering92kgHyde sailOvington hullSelden D+ mast

Dave Winder was racing the NSCA demo Solo at the Championship, a Winder 2 with Superspar M2/B2, Hyde mainsail and with CB combo trailer. The demo boat will be moving around the UK to provide those interested in getting into the class a cutting edge example of what the boat is all about.

There was discussion at the AGM on possible alterations to the National Solo but the subsequent survey carried out over the next month and feedback from the RYA resulted in any changes being vetoed.

September

The Harken Inland Championship attracted a lower than anticipated fleet of 46 Solos to Rutland Water for two days of tricky racing in some unusual easterly winds. Day 1 was blessed with a nice force 2-3 but the direction was as erratic as the flight pattern of your average winged/foiling moth. The lay lines into the windward mark were critical, Nation's Cup Champion James Boyce winning the Balls of Steel award for his port tack into the top mark in race 3, totally committed to squeezing in ahead of a starboard lay line packed with sailors with success on their mind.

At the end of day 1 Boyce would lead from multiple Inland Champion winner Andy Davis, Oliver Davenport, Shane McCarthy and Martin Honnor. Ewan Birkin Walls sat in sixth but with a bullet on his scorecard, day 2 and a discard would be pivotal.

The forecast for day 2 was not promising and it would prove accurate with only one race being completed. Davis stamped his authority on the race and the event, hooking into the new breeze and seemingly sailing off into the sunset. Unfortunately the breeze switched off on the final run leaving Davis floundering as the fleet bore down on him. Davis held his nerve and the slimmest of leads to take the win and the Championship. the Corinthian category would have gone to Boyce with McCarthy, Davenport and Honnor completing a talented top five. I would like the class to hit 100 next year, 2019 has seen a very condensed event timetable so with so many popular venues, finding the right recipe to generate maximum numbers is crucial.

October

The EOS (End of Season) Championship took place at Grafham Water and 54 competitors would contest the final major of the year. This would also conclude the North Sails Super Series and one lucky qualifier would be taking home a new North Sails main. The sky was as grey as Graham Cranford Smith's locks (other silver haired examples are available) and the breeze was 6-10 knots, not the best conditions then for Tim Olin to capture the action but he still managed to make the most of it and provided an online gallery within two days of the event.

Cumbley and Davis were elsewhere and this allowed Tom Gillard an opportunity to stake a claim on the overall title. Two bullets secured the event win from Ian Walters and Nigel Davies. Ewan Birkin Walls winning the final race to deny the clean sweep, he is becoming a bit of a specialist with some big race wins under his belt and this is gratifying to see as he has had some bad luck with equipment failures in the past.

I might add that I raced against Ewan in the 1990s and my father raced his father back in the 70s; the love of the Solo stretches across generations.

Gillard took the overall title then from Charlie Cumbley and Andy Davis with Shane McCarthy first Corinthian but who would win the North Sail? The tension was thicker than a 5mm steamer and the winner was announced as Mark Lee which was fitting as he has put a huge effort into travelling across the UK to attend so many events. Mark has kept the same FRP Solo (5130) from new and the 8 year old Winder will now be matched with a brand new North mainsail. Incidentally, my father also raced his father back in the 70's and probably still do in the lake in the sky.

Other winners over the season include:

Abersoch Dinghy Week - Jack Hopkins - Delph
Salcombe Regatta - Tim Johnson - Salcombe
Southern Area Championship - Cancelled
Southern Series - Fraser Hayden
Eastern Area Championship - Mark Maskell - Blackwater
Eastern Series - Mark Maskell
Midland Area Championship - Tom Gillard
Midland Series - Ian Ingram
Northern Area Championship - Tony Wetherall
Northern Series - Steve Denison - RYA
Western Area Championship - Chris Brown - RYA
Western Series - Nick Martindale - Chew Valley
Scottish Championship - Andy Davis - Blithfield
Scottish Series - Stuart Gibson - CCC Bardowie

The NSCA committee are now busy putting final plans in place for the 2020 season, The Nation's Cup in Medemblik in June followed by the National Championship in North Berwick in August being the highlights. The fleets across the UK, Netherlands are now taking a well deserved breather while the emerging fleet in Portugal continue to race in Lagos...a winter event there in the future seems inevitable.

Thank you to all our sponsors but especially to our sailors who continue to support the NSCA by rocking up to our organised events, no other class can offer close competitive big fleet class racing.

See you on the water in 2020.

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